Remembering Irish Men and Women who served in the First World War
The Imperial War Museum has just launched a new project to create a permanent digital memorial to every man and woman who served in the First World War. This ambitious undertaking asks members of the public to share the life story of any relative they have uncovered who served in World War 1. One of the first life stories uploaded to the website relates to the life of Irish man Private Michael Lennon who served with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Many users of Dublin City Library and Archive are aware that we hold the records of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association Archive, and may be wondering what exactly these records are and if we can assist them in researching their own family members who served in World War 1.
The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association was established in 1996 to commemorate all Irish men and women who volunteered, served and died in the First World War 1914-1918. The RDFA fulfils its remit by organising public exhibitions, lectures, seminars, visits and the publication of a journal, Blue Cap. In 2005, the RDFA decided to place its archive with Dublin City Library & Archive, where it is managed by Dublin City Archives and made available for public consultation in the Reading Room.
Firstly it is important to note that the RDFA Archive does not contain the service records for the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. These are held in The National Archives, Kew London or they can be also accessed online via the pay per view site www.ancestory.co.uk.
The RDFA Archive consists of the personal papers of individual Irish Men and Women who participated in World War 1. These collections have been generously donated by their relatives and include records such as diaries, service medals, maps, letters and postcards home, as well photographs and other mementos. The RDFA Archive documents personal stories of human endeavour and heroism, in the face of overwhelming odds and appalling suffering.
Each collection received is carefully preserved, catalogued and stored in the special strong rooms in Dublin City Library and Archive which are air-conditioned and fire protected.
One of the valuable collections held in the RDFA Archive is the Monica Roberts Collection which consists of letters to Monica Roberts, a young Irish woman who set up a voluntary organisation to provide gifts to Irish troops, from Irish men serving mainly in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Royal Flying Corps. The letters provide vivid pen-pictures of conditions at the Western Front.
Another example is the The Gunning Brothers: Gallipoli and the Somme, which contains the records of two Enniskillen brothers, George Cecil and Frank Douglas Gunning, who fought at the battle of Gallipoli during the First World War. The Irish National War Memorial Committee Collection outlines the protracted scheme, initiated in 1919, to design a War Memorial Gardens at Longmeadows, Islandbridge, Dublin.
Dublin City Library and Archive has a plethora of other sources helpful to anyone wishing to gain a wider understanding of the contribution and huge sacrifice made by Irish men and women to the Great War including recent publications as well as contemporary newspapers and periodicals from the 1914-1918 period.
Two other websites which are freely available and can be very useful to anyone researching Irish men who served and were killed in World War 1 are: Irish Soldiers Wills which contains 9,000 wills of Irish men who fought in the British Army, recently digitised by the National Archives of Ireland, and the Irish War Memorial Records, originally compiled by the aforementioned Irish National War Memorial Committee.
With an estimated 350, 000 Irishmen serving in the British forces during World War One, and over 49,000 killed in action, it is unsurprising that many of us researching our family history have unearthed long forgotten relatives who contributed to theatres of war such as Belgium, France or Gallipoli, as well as on the Home Front. It would be a fitting commemoration to their sacrifices if any information uncovered is shared on the Imperial War Museum Digital Memorial.